JUDGE HEARS EVIDENCE IN HARASS CASE
By Cynthia Laird
Bay Area Reporter 20 Dec. 2001
A preliminary hearing got under way last week in San Francisco Superior Court
for two activists charged with multiple counts of harassment, threats and
stalking against city health officials and members of the media. The hearing
is expected to continue next month so that a judge can determine whether
there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial.
Michael Petrelis and David Pasquarelli remain in San Francisco County Jail.
Bail for Petrelis is $500,000, while bail for Pasquarelli was increased to
$600,000 after he was arraigned on additional charges.
The two face numerous felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from the
alleged threats and harassment which, prosecutors charge, escalated in late
October and November after a series of reports were released in the San
Francisco Chronicle and the Bay Area Reporter detailing an increase in
syphilis rates in the gay community and after a magazine comment concerning
quarantine of gay men was attributed to a health official.
The preliminary hearing began last Thursday, December 13, before Superior
Court Judge Perker Meeks Jr. Because of a previously scheduled vacation and
because defense attorneys have other cases, Meeks continues the hearing on
According to charges filed by Assistant District Attorney Machaela Hoctor,
Petrelis faces on felony count of conspiracy, three counts of felony
stalking, four counts of felony terrorist threats, and 11 counts of
Pasquarelli, a member of AC UP/San Francisco, was arrested on one count of
felony conspiracy, two counts of felony stalking, four counts of felony
terrorist threats, three counts of misdemeanor harassment, and two counts of
violating a restraining order, also misdemeanors.
The men were arrested November 23 as they exited another courtroom where a
hearing was heard of civil restraining orders against them. They have denied
the criminal charges, and have stated that while some calls were made, they
never threatened anyone, spoke to children, or placed bomb threats, as
alleged by the Chronicle.
Three witnesses testified last week. All work for the DPH and received
recounted various incidents where they received phone calls or faxes from
Petrelis or Pasquarelli they considered threatening, harassing, and obscene.
Tape recordings of the phone calls were played in court.
Eileen Shield, public information officer for the DPH, testified that on
October 29 she received a call from Petrelis in which he asked, "Do you penis
in your mouth performing oral sex?"
"I was stunned, shocked," Shields told the court of her reaction to the call.
"I just said, 'My God, Michael' and hung up."
Shields, who told the court that she has spoken with Petrelis and Pasquarelli
on numerous occasions over the years, said that this time, there seemed to be
an escalation in their calls.
She told the court of a call that she received from Pasquarelli in which he
revealed that he knew her home address and phone number. "I was furious," she
said. Days later, she said, she received an e-mail in which her home phone
number and address were listed. "It asked people to come to my house, to call
me, [and said] that said I was spreading lies about gay men. I was very
frightened because it was a new level for ACT UP. It never involved my home.
This ramping up...was frightening," Shields testified.
She told the court that she feared for her safety and would repeatedly look
around here neighborhood for the men when she arrived home from work. On one
occasion she received a phone call just after getting home. "I was worried he
was perhaps near my house," she said.
Shields, who lives alone, testified that the calls affected her concentration
at work and that she advertised for a roommate. "I would look over my
shoulder alot," she said.
There were more calls, Shields said, including one from Pasquarelli in which
he asked her if she was a Nazi, and ranting that gays would not be "cooked in
the chamber" and that Shields would be quarantined if she didn't "stop
On cross-examination, Mark Vermeulen, Pasquarelli's attorney, asked if the
men did things to her house.
"No," she replied.
Stuart Blumstein, Petrelis' attorney, asked when she filed the police report.
Shields said she called the police on November 12.
Dr. Willi McFarland, an epidemiologist with DPH, was the next witness. He
testified that as far back as June 2000 the men said they were watching him.
On November 7, 2001, McFarland said, Petrelis called his home and his wife
answered. He asked over and over again if McFarland had syphilis. Petrelis
called again, McFarland testified, and his 9-year-old daughter picked up the
phone. "She said, 'It's Michael Petrelis and he asked for you," McFarland
More calls came to his home, McFarland said, and his wife and his daughter
became very upset.
At November 8 HIV prevention Planning Council Meeting, McFarland said he was
giving a presentation. Petrelis and Pasquarelli were there. Petrelis kept
walking around closely behind McFarland, and Pasquarelli handed him a
"I took it as a sign that they were going to continue," McFarland said. Late
at night he got a call from Petrelis accusing him of "inciting violence
against gay men."
He daughter became more upset, saying she was afraid they were going to come
to the house and stared crying at night, McFarland testified. He too, called
police and filed a report.
On cross-examination, Blumstein asked McFarland if Petrelis ever touched him
at a public meeting. "Yes he has," McFarland answered.
McFarland testified at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing in August of
2000, Petrelis placed his hand on McFarland's shoulder and said, "I'll see
Klausner takes the stand
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, head of DPH' sexually transmitted disease unit, was the
third witness. He testified that he has been on the receiving end of phone
calls from Petrelis and Pasquarelli for years. He told the court the received
a phone call from Pasquarelli on October 26 demanding the number of syphilis
tests given in San Francisco for 1999, 2000, and 2001.
"We can do this the easy way or the hard way where members of ACT UP/SF come
down to visit," Pasquarelli said in a taped phone message to Klausner that
Hoctor played in court.
"I was scared," Klausner testified. He recounted an earlier incident two
years ago when ACT UP/SF members allegedly came to his office and "terrorized
my staff and vandalized the office with graffiti."
"The number of tests was not something that I could provide," Klausner said.
"They are latching onto something impossible."
He said that never, in the years that he has worked for the city, had the men
called him at home until recently. Like McFarland, Klausner said that his
wife picked up the phone to hear Petrelis ranting about "syphilitic dicks"
and became very upset.
Klausner said he called police, and had their home phone number changed.
Klausner also testified about fliers made by ACTUP/SF that portrayed him as a
Nazi with "KKKlausner" in an effort to mock his stutter. Hoctor then played a
tape of a call to Klausner from Pasquarelli, "Good evening typhoid
Jeff-Jeff-Jeffrey Klausner. Your days of harassing gay men from the pulpit of
the Health department are coming to an end. This is your warning."
On cross-examination, Vermeulen asked Klausner about security at his office.
Klausner said that he had gone to Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz with is
concerns, but that Katz downplayed the calls, and attempted to reassure
Klausner that the two men were not physically violent.
"However, I know he [Katz] tries to gloss things over, " Klausner said.
Regarding a comment about quarantine of gay men that was attributed to
Klausner in a recent Washington Monthly article, he said that the writer
paraphrased the discussions.
"I did not specifically raise the issue of quarantine," Klausner said.
"Did you ever request clarification or a retraction?" Vermeulen asked.
"I requested the author write letters to the local papers with a
clarification," Klausner answered.
Klausner also testified that the calls from the activists stopped after they
were served with temporary restraining orders.